A band has some kind of amazing longevity if you can still be "the new guy" after 30 years in the lineup. But that's exactly the case with Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood, whose life story is recounted in his new book, Ronnie: The Autobiography.
Unfortunately Wood's recollections consist of precious little about the music and fewer anecdotes about his fellow Stones than one might reasonably expect. Instead, chapter upon chapter details Wood's drinking/drugging/fucking/palling-with-Keith escapades. They start to run together, and, frankly, grow tiresome after awhile.
He first began drinking, we learn, as a teen, after a girlfriend was killed in a car wreck. "In the bottle, I had discovered a way not to think about it," he writes. The vodka transfusions continued while Wood gigged with the hard-partying Faces, whose onstage set sported a full working bar.
Wood was already a longtime friend of the Stones when, while sitting with singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Mick Taylor in 1975, the latter abruptly quit the group. Unruffled, Jagger simply turned his head and offered Wood the role on the spot. He accepted summarily. "The music was the easiest part of becoming a Rolling Stone," Wood writes. "The steep learning curve was living like a Rolling Stone."
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Trivia fans will be interested to know that Wood had a fling with George Harrison/Eric Clapton muse Pattie Boyd, when he and the Quiet Beatle did a little wife-swapping. Or, that after the Faces were banned from the Holiday Inn chain for excessive room-trashing, they would sometimes check in as "Fleetwood Mac" or "The Grateful Dead."
There's also a hilarious account of a bizarre incident in which Wood and Keith Richards were jailed in tiny Fordyce, Arkansas, with a Hunter Thompson-esque car full of drugs and weapons. It's an incident to which Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee often refers, noting with pride that as governor he pardoned Richards many years later. Once again, poor Woody apparently lives in Keef's shadow.
It is hard to swallow, however, Wood's claim he was actually the first choice for guitarist in the "New Yardbirds," which later became Led Zeppelin, and that only after he turned down the slot was it offered to Jimmy Page. Every other reliable source elsewhere plainly states that Page (the only Yardbird left at the time) was actually the band's birth father.
Also, Wood never addresses the fact that for many years the notoriously tight-fisted Jagger and Richards did not see fit to make Wood an "official" Rolling Stone. It was only at the behest of other band members did he get to fully share in the monetary proceeds and billing. (The same still can't be said for the decade-plus service of current Stones bassist Darryl Jones.) Wood does, though, write of his incredible debts and financial problems, but mostly those resulting from his and wife Jo's own appetites for homes, cars, and drugs.
Scattered throughout Ronnie are sketches of both literary and artistic value. Unfortunately they don't help a memoir that, given the rich potential of its source, never really gets rolling.
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